Friends and family of a Seattle woman killed by a drunk driver in 2013 are raising questions about whether her death could have been prevented.
That’s because the man who killed Morgan Fick Williams was enrolled at a dubious Tacoma drug and alcohol treatment clinic in the months before the fatal crash.
“Morgan got let down. Morgan got shafted here,” said Jerry Esterly when he learned that the man who killed his longtime girlfriend was getting treatment from A Change Counseling Service.
Several sources tell KING 5 that the driver responsible for Fick Williams’s death -- Michael Robertson -- was treated by a state-licensed counselor who has a long history of complaints on file with state regulators.
Despite those complaints, counselor Kathy Dastrup has managed to keep her Chemical Dependency Professional certificate – and is licensed to practice to this very day.
“I’m madder there at that than I’ve ever been at Michael Robertson. I’m pissed off about this – I’ll tell you that,” Esterly told KING 5.
Morgan Fick Williams was driving to work across the 520 bridge on April 4, 2013, when she was hit by a wrong-way driver. Police arrested an intoxicated Robertson and found a bottle of Fireball whiskey in the back seat of his crushed SUV.
Officers soon determined that Robertson had been responsible for another DUI crash – where he rear-ended a woman in Tacoma – three months earlier. Following that crash, Robertson enrolled at A Change Counseling in early 2013.
The KING 5 Investigators have reported on disturbing accusations against several counselors at A Change. State documents – and witnesses interviewed by KING 5 – claim that counselors have been soliciting cash bribes from clients. In exchange, counselors allegedly falsified records they submitted to judges certifying that clients were in compliance with their court-ordered treatment.
The Washington Department of Health (DOH) confirmed that Kathy Dastrup is under an unspecified investigation for her conduct at A Change – where she treated Michael Robertson after his first DUI crash.
DOH also confirms that Dastrup is under investigation following a complaint by the owners of A Brighter Tomorrow Counseling Center in Lakewood. The owners of that clinic claimed Dastrup “took approximately $100,000” in client billings when she was the business’s clinical director. Employees said that Dastrup would “work side deals with ‘special’ clients, (and) would falsify paperwork.”
Clinic managers say that one client admitted that she met Dastrup at a nearby Arby’s restaurant and handed her cash to get out of attending treatment sessions.
State investigators “substantiated the complaint allegations,” according to documents received by KING 5 through a public records request. They found at least 28 patient files contained little or no evidence that Dastrup had actually treated the patients, even though she had informed the courts that the clients were in compliance.
Sources familiar with the investigation say those 28 clients have been forced to repeat some or all of their treatment sessions.
“I think that’s appalling,” Esterly said, when told of Dastrup’s track record with DOH and the Department of Social and Health Services, which licenses counseling clinics.
Michael Robertson, the driver who killed Morgan Fick Williams, refused to speak by phone with KING 5.
In a letter written from his prison cell at Monroe Correctional Complex, Robertson said that A Change “gave me a bad vibe.” He wrote that he remembered Dastrup but couldn’t recall his interactions with her because, “My crash and the detox caused some fogginess with my memory.”
Dastrup declined repeated requests for an on-camera interview. In April, Dastrup told a KING 5 reporter she had just been fired from her job at Social Treatment Opportunity Programs (STOP), a Tacoma counseling clinic. She didn’t say why.
In subsequent text messages, Dastrup said the accusations against her were coming from “insane people” and “I can’t stop the media but I think I’m goung (sic) to be able to clear the stuff up on me.”
Esterly wonders if Morgan’s death serves an example of the worst that can happen if counselors and clinics aren’t living up to the basic standards of the substance abuse treatment industry.
“It boggles my mind. The damage. The loss,” said Esterly.
Tacoma drug counselors under investigation (April 22, 2016)
Courts bar Tacoma clinic after KING 5 report (March 24, 2016)